Suburban Cook County students named National Geographic GeoBee state semifinalists

Note: After careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 National Geographic GeoBee and GeoChallenge competitions. This includes the state-level GeoBee competitions and regional-level GeoChallenge competitions scheduled for Friday, March 27, 2020 as well as the GeoChampionships scheduled in May 2020 at National Geographic headquarters.

The National Geographic Society recently named the semifinalists eligible to compete in the 2020 National Geographic GeoBee State Competition. The contest was scheduled for Friday, March 27, at Heartland Community College in Normal.

Due to evolving public health risks related to the novel coronavirus, the National Geographic Society has made the decision to cancel the in-person level National Geographic State GeoBee scheduled for March 27 in all locations and switch to an online format. They are doing this out of an abundance of caution regarding COVID-19, and in order to prioritize the health and safety of everyone who attends these events. To ensure that this year's state GeoBee qualifiers have a safe and fair opportunity to compete that is consistent across the country, the National Geographic Society will offer the opportunity for State GeoBee qualifiers to take an online test on March 27 that is administered and proctored by the school GeoBee coordinator or another paid school employee.

Semifinalists in the suburban Cook County area are: Azhar Ahmed, a sixth-grader at Hoover Math & Science Academy in Schaumburg; Sean Burke, a sixth-grader at Our Lady Of Perpetual Help, in Glenview; Siya Choudhary, an eighth-grader at Helen Keller Junior High School in Schaumburg; Rohan Ganeshan, an eighth-grader at Quest Academy in Palatine; Jason Jacob, a sixth-grader at Aptakisic Junior High School in Buffalo Grove; Ashwin Mahidara, a seventh-grader at Plum Grove Junior High School, in Rolling Meadows; Yashas Mattur, an eighth-grader at Margaret Mead Junior High School in Elk Grove Village; Rajan Michon, a seventh-grader at Barrington Middle School-Station Campus in Barrington; Maitreyi Pandey, an eighth-grader at Walter Sundling Jr High School in Palatine; Shuja Raina, a seventh-grader at William J. Attea Middle School in Glenview; Vageesh Ramaswamy, an eighth-grader at Twin Groves Middle School in Buffalo Grove; Vedant Rathi, an eighth-grader at Daniel Wright Junior High School, Lincolnshire; Andrew Schinler, and Martin Sonnenschein, a seventh-grader at Science & Arts Academy in Des Plaines.

This is the second level of the National Geographic GeoBee competition, which is now in its 32nd year.

To determine each school champion, GeoBee competitions were held in schools throughout the state with students in the fourth through eighth grade.

This year, an estimated 2.4 million students competed in the GeoBee, with 8,661 students becoming school champions.

School champions also took an online qualifying test, which they submitted to the National Geographic Society.

Up to 100 of the top-scoring students in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense Dependents Schools and U.S. territories were invited to compete in the State GeoBees.

State champions will receive a medal, $1,000 in cash, and other prizes, as well as a trip to Washington, D.C., to represent their state in the National Championship where they will compete for additional cash, awards and college scholarships. The second- and third-place State GeoBee winners will receive cash awards of $300 and $100, respectively.

The 2020 National Championship will be May 18-21 at National Geographic headquarters. The national champion will receive a $25,000 college scholarship, $1,000 in cash, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society and an all-expenses-paid Lindblad expedition to the Galápagos Islands aboard the National Geographic Endeavour ll. The second-place finisher will receive a $10,000 college scholarship and $1,000 in cash; the student finishing in third place will receive a $5,000 college scholarship and $1,000 in cash; and seven runners-up will each receive $1,000 in cash.

On May 18-21, follow the national competition at

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